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October 26, 2001

For Women Only

Where are women artists and dealers today hailing from the days when they created a women's art movement in the 70s?

Moderator: Donna Marxer

Liz Cenedella, President Pen & Brush Inc.
Suzanne de Vegh, director Soho20
Annie Herron, owner, Eyewash Gallery
Dena Muller, director, A.I.R. Gallery
Melissa Wolf, president Women's Studio Center

Sara Kay, Executive Director, Artists Talk On Art: Good Evening and welcome to Artists Talk On Art. . . I want to introduce our moderator right now, Donna Marxer. Donna has been an exhibiting painter for 47 years and a feminist since birth. She is also an arts activist and is former executive director of Artists Talk On Art. She is a member of the ATOA Board of Directors, former member of the board of New York Artists Equity and Organization of Independent Artists, a frequent contributor to Arts Calendar magazine Her current project is founder and Advisor to a brand-new artists in residency project in Everglades National Park and will be talking about her new program at an upcoming panel on environmental art. So I'm going to let Donna take over now.

Donna Marxer: Hi Everybody. It's good to be back. Of course, I'm always pinch-hitting for somebody. Tonight it's our delightful Molly Barnes who is back in California and it seems to me--I remember what Liz Taylor said, "Always a bride, never a bridesmaid." I would like to be invited to be on a panel sometime instead of always pinch- hitting and being a moderator. I'm going to start by introducing our panelists.

To my right is Liz Cenedella, a quilt artist and decorative painter of the governing board of the Pen & Brush club, Pen & Brush, Inc.? That makes sense. You should have ink with pen and brush. A 110-year-old, Wow, not-for-profit women's organization. She exhibits her work in galleries and numerous crafts competitions. She has worked as a costumer in the theater, run her own company designing and manufacturing children's bedding and divides her time between the leadership at the Pen & Brush, teaching needlework and quilting for the Elder Craftsman and designing and marketing her work. She is currently writing a book for Watson Guptill on her style of patchwork. Welcome Liz.

And to her right is an art dealer. Annie is co-director of Eyewash Gallery. In the first half of the 80s she was director of Semaphore East in the Village and from 1991 - 93 she was owner/director of Test Site in Williamsburg which gave solo debuts in New York City to a whole array of stars. Stars, take my word for it. During the 2995-96 season she was director of Black + Herron space in Soho . She has also curated numerous other exhibitions in other spaces in New York City including Rotunda Gallery, Pierogi 2000 & Sauce and various spaces elsewhere in the U. S. including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne and Wake Forest University.

Now to my left, Melissa Wolf is the founder/director of the Women's Studio Center, fine arts studio in Long Island City. Her background includes being an artist in graphic design and advertising. And she just completed a certificate in arts administration. Her professional background includes 10 years working full time and part time in the retail end of art supplies, studio manager at Artists Studio Center run by James Youngman and involvement in a 200 member artists-run organization for three years. She is a non-practicing artist who now runs Women's Studio Center full time.

To her left is Dena Muller, currently director of A. I. R. Gallery. She's been at A. I. R. since 1994. She began at the gallery as an intern working on a project to document the 30-year history of A. I. R. as the oldest artist-run not-for-profit gallery women artists in the country. Her internship was a component of NYU's Graduate Program in Museum Studies where Ms. Muller completed her M. A. and the New York State Certificate in Museum Studies in 1997. Upon completing her Master's degree, Ms. Muller worked temporarily for Parson's School of Design in Paris where she continued to support A. I. R. Gallery by helping to plan the gallery's anniversary celebration and serving as a grant writer. She returned too A. I. R. as the director in 1998. She is also a National Board Member for the women's Caucus for the Arts.

Last but not least is Suzanne de Vegh. director of Soho20 Gallery, also a woman's gallery. Ms. de Vegh earned her B. A in Art History in 1994 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. While at U. Mass she directed the Student Union Gallery and was Vice Chair of the U. Mass Arts Council. After graduation she remained active in the local arts community as a freelance curator and juror for an arts competition sponsored by the Valley Optimist. In 1999 Ms. de Vegh moved to New York City where as an educator has lectured extensively on exhibitions at the following museums: P. S. 1 Institute for Contemporary Art, Cooper Hewitt, The National Design Museum, the Morgan Library, The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park. In the past year under Ms. de Vegh's direction Soho20 Gallery has enjoyed an increase in membership and its clientele. That's good news!

Moderator's introductory remarks
Donna Marxer: Let me just say a few words of introduction here. The topic we're discussing here tonight is how far women have come in recent times in the art world. Molly Barnes would have probably taken this from the point of view of the art dealer but as an artist, you'll have to put up with all the baggage I'm carrying. I'll try to keep the talk on an objective basis but I do have some opinions which will be evident. In other words, I come here with a full heart and a little bit pissed off. I'm an old warrior from the 70s. Women artists realized we had a very tiny slide of the art pie but we got together. We formed Women In the Arts. Cynthia Navaretta, a former director of Artists Talk On Art started the wonderful Women Artists News, a terrific women's magazine in the arts. Ad Hoc, the Guerrilla Girls, still with us, Women's Caucus for the Arts, still with us. A. I. R. sure still with us, and on and on. We put exhibitions together, did courageous things like throwing tampons on the floor of the Whitney to get attention--and it worked! Vulgar. It worked. A male colleague who is usually here isn't coming tonight because he objected t the whole idea of female galleries. He said, "There never were any galleries that declared themselves for men only." I replied that it had not been necessary and yes there were. I remembered a male homosexual gallery that didn't declare itself that but it showed only male homosexual art by male homosexuals. Remember the Andrew Crispo Gallery? Crispo was very successful and he had woman artist, the late I. Rice Periera, Irene Rice Periera. That was the only woman he ever had in the gallery . Sidney Janis, I think this was always true, had one woman artist, that was Marisol and on and on and on and on. What happened to us old warriors, we got tired and we tried to leave things to the next generation and the next generation didn't do things the way we did together. They collected our winnings and went on to some glory and they stopped doing things together as much. They stopped joining together and they achieved a lot, a lot more than we had. The numbers are getting better, or are they? Art Table is a well-established organization of women dealers, curators, women in the arts business in general. Eleanor Munro reports in her excellent biography collection, Originals, biographies of women artists, that Art Table had 50 members in 1979 and 900 by 2000. And the numbers are growing all the time. So there's a lot of women in arts administration right now. These include Agnes Gund, chairman of MoMA and in 2000 there were 36 women museum directors. We don't know how much that's affected the number of women artists or the position of women artists. We are assuming it makes it better but I don't know how that measures out. And about women artists it is less clear. In the Olden Days, there were so many surveys, you knew how many women were in each gallery and these figures were kept up-to-date. I keep hearing that the numbers are getting better. But I do a little select art survey of my own. I did this for some years and then I quit a few years ago. I would check The New Yorker every week and I would count the number of shows because I consider The New Yorker lists all the best--the major shows. And I would count how many men and how many women. About 10 years ago it was about 8% and then the numbers got better. They got up to 15%. What I noticed is that the women were not at the quality end of the shows. They weren't in the major shows. The very best ones. Last week as we are close to the opening of the art season now, I checked it out again. And there were 23 men and eight women. I leave out people whose names I can't tell the sex from. And the men dominated the high end of the scale, the best exhibitions again. An exception is the Whitney where the star is a woman photographer. Now photography is one area where women are starting to dominate in the fine arts field. That's good news. This was a very slow week and there were only 12 men and eight women in the shows that I could count. But I don't think those numbers are still good enough and again, the men have the high end of the scale on the exhibitions. The quality area. Of course, the major museums, the Met and MoMA are historical so that's five men, because that's historical. This is just a reflection of our world at large. With the recent tragedy, we have learned of the terrible plight of Afghani women. That's really the other end of the scale. But on our own front, I don't seem to be seeing much about woman heroes. We know there are some but you can't tell it by the bulk of the news. The New York Times, which is another classy kind of publication, Eleanor Munro has pointed out, where are all the women writing for the Op Ed page? Just Maureen Dowd, as far as we can tell. And, in the obituaries, we've got to be a healthy flock! We women, because we just don't die! I think, why are there no Obitchuaries! Thursday (in the Times) was an all-time low. Seven men, no women. We just don't die. I think, why are there no Obitchuaries! Well, I have a word about that ifanybody wants to ask me about it later. I know how to get an obituary in The New York Times because I did it for my mentor, Minna Citron and I'll tell you how if you want to know. It is something we ought to do for one another. And so, there is still so much to be done. So let's get to it. First of all let's start out by looking at some slides. I don't know what order they are in so we are just going to quickly look at some slides from each of the women on this panel. I'm not going to say "girls," the women on this panel. . . This will be relatively fast run-through and then we'll get into the dish. Pause for technical difficulties. While we are waiting, I'll tell you how I got Minna Citron's obituary in The New York Times. I don't know if you remember Minna Citron but I just loved her. She was my mentor and she died at 95 and I just knew that they were going to skip her for the Times. So I asked a friend of mine on Life magazine how to do it . . . to be continued.


Melissa Wolf: This is from Women's Studio Center. These slides are from our registry. You have to be a member to be in our registry. The basic membership is $30. The membership information is up front. This is Judith Anderson. This is poignant right now. It's called "To Build Them Anew." It's an etching with watercolor and it's 14"X18." This is Joanne Bishop, "Cocktails at Reception." She works at the Metropolitan Museum and as you can see, she is inspired by her job. She was in a show with us in May. This is El Clark. It's called "Fallen." It's pastel, acrylic and canvas. El is our website designer. And if you go there and you like it, please call us. This is Cecile Chong. It's called "Floating." It's oil on canvas. Cecile is I believe Chinese and Cuban but don't quote me on it. This is Laurel Colben, "Words of my father, Laugh, Laugh," which is part of her fisherman series. The reason I wanted to show this one is because in our publication Women's Artist's News last year, we put out a call that Ceres Gallery wanted us to put out and she responded and is now a full member of Ceres Gallery. This is Christine Corda; it's called "Dailyness." It's wax pencil on paper. Christine is the one who is actually responsible for the technical end of our website. This is Betty Gilman. It's called "Awesome." It's bronze with a painted steel base. I believe she began by carving styrofoam and then having it cast in bronze. This is Jenny Sexon, "Tall Portrait" in mixed media 30" high x 8" x 8". This is Carolyn Monets Isherwood who is our recording secretary. It is called "Flowers for Carrie." It's a collage. This is Judith Morgan. It's called "Femininity." It's wood with corvine steel base. This is Pamela Wells. I happen to be partial. I can't be that way but I'll just sneak that in. It's called "Hora." It's a digital painting. She works with a computer. Her stuff is quite mythical. This is Linda Stein. It's called "Corkscrew Sweep" and it's wood, metal and fiber. This is Nancy Ward, one of the artists that rents space from us in Long Island City. It's untitled and it's mixed media. She works in pencil, watercolor, gouache, charcoal. This is Nancy Izarra. It's called "Heartwall." It's mixed media. It's 6'X24'X3' and for those of you who don't know, Nancy Izarra ran the Feminist Art Institute in the 80s. This is Shirley Pinneat. It's called "Searching for the Light" and she's a collage artist. It kind of looks like a stained glass window. This is Alice Jacoby. It's called "Girl in a Bottle" and it's oil on canvas. This is Nancy Schneider. It's called "Drowned." It's oil pastel and watercolor. Nancy Schneider is the Chair of our Visual Arts Committee and she is also renting studio space from us. And this is Andrea Bonifacio. It's called "Chronic" and it's collage. I've seen some of her work live and what she does is takes the canvas and turns it around so she's actually painted the stretcher and added things to it. This is Babette Farrian. It's called "Twilight in Vermont" and it's acrylic. This has won her several awards. I met her and I hope to be writing a piece for Art Newsletter on her this year. She's 86 years old and she started by taking courses at the WPA. Her comment about this painting is that it is her good luck painting so it's not for sale. And I'm finishing with Sheila Benedis. This is "Flower Book." It's mixed media on paper, 3"X6"X35."

Dena Muller: The next series of slides is from A.I. R. Gallery members and the New York-based members of A. I. R. and the board of directors. We have slides from 13 of the artists here. This first piece is be Susan Bee, it's called "Tempted" and it's mixed media and collage. This work is by Daria Dorosch. It's untitled and it's an ink jet print. Daria is one of the founding members of A. I. R. so she's been a member for 30 years. This piece is by Jessica Nebraska Gifford. It's called "John" and it's oil on canvas. This piece by Michia Itami is called "End" and it's a lithograph. Louise Cramer is also a founding member of A. I. R. This untitled piece is a photo engraving. Louise McCags work is hand-made paper and it's called "Trouts." It's an installation. Sylvia Natzer's ceramic work. This installation is "Post Toxic Neo Plastic"." Beatrice Reis: This is "Dull Knife." It's oil on linen. Carol Ross, whose work is in the gallery right now. This piece is called "Arch with Reaching Roof." It's laminated aluminum. Barbara Roo is an installation artist and this piece is called "Fragile Area." Louisa Sartori is our newest member and this mixed media on wood piece is called "Trails." Ann Schaumberger is also a new member and this piece is "Green Horses." And Nancy Staro's work is oil on vellum and this piece is "Lure."

Suzanne de Vegh: My name is Suzanne de Vegh and I'm director of Soho20 Gallery. This first work is by Patricia Verubi. This is latex and it is mixed media. I don't have my title list with me so we'll just go through and I'll name each artist. This is Heather Weathers, recent work from 2000. This is entitled "Meat Blanket." This is one of our newer members, Judith Ueling, who is well represented in Europe as well as the United States. This is oil on canvas. Another from Judith. This is Adrienne Newman and this is pastel on paper. This is Gigi Stankewich. This is acrylic. This is Ann Rauls, one of our national affiliate members, again another mixed media installation. Latex and thread. This is Georgia Strange and this is alabaster. This is one of our younger members who has a fellowship with Soho20, Samantha Palmeri and this is entitled "Bathtub." Oil on canvas. This is the work of Eleanora Thomas. This is acrylic on paper. This is the work of Lucy Hodgeson who currently has work in Rhode Island and many exhibitions in New York. This is several kinds of wood, obviously. This is I. Chin Lee. Oil on canvas. This is an installation view of Eve Ingels' work. This is Nella Knix, mixed media. This is Brenna Manuel, also a mixed-media installation. Another Brenna. This is Darla York, oil on canvas. This is Margaret Wagner, graphite on paper, a National Affiliate member. And this is Rosie Thompson, an installation show. We have many, many members in Soho20. One of our national affiliate members. This is Ellen Hoffman, one of our new members, acrylic on canvas. This is Eve Ingels, national affiliate member, mixed media. This is Bea Amor, also a mixed media sculptor and now working with photography as well. This is Ann Marie MacDonald, another one of our fellowship members, mixed media installation. Ann Marie does printmaking as well. This is Margaret Wagner, graphite on paper and last but not least, Cynthia Mailman. We also have Cynthia's catalog and this is Nan Keary, watercolor on paper.

Liz Cenedella: Liz Cenedella, president of Pen & Brush and just to preface these slides, I have slides of my own work. I have slides of Pamela Lovelace and we'll get to that and also Lynn Alice Witkin. We have a brush section which has five divisions, graphics, watercolor, oil, mixed media, collage and pastel. And then we have a sculpture section, a music section, a crafts section and a writing section. So it covers women in all of the arts. But obviously I am just showing you three artists today so this is an abstract landscape of mine, another one pieced and appliquéd, again pieces and appliquéd. I like landscapes a lot. And this is a hooked rug, again the same scene. And this is a pieces abstract wall hanging and a detail of some crazy quilt with buttons and appliqués. This is a collage of Lynn Alice Witkin, which is wonderful. She is also a sculptor and I think I have a piece of hers. This is also a collage. This is also a collage. She does a lot of images of women. That's actually another painting of hers in the background. And this is an oil painting calls "Views of Harriet." Her sister died 20 years ago and she has many photographs of her. And this is another oil painting of hers. She's 81. This is Pamela Lovelace who is the former Brush chair. We have women in charge of each section and she's a watercolorist primarily and I have no idea what the titles of these are but I'll flip through them. She's won solo awards and she's been very instrumental in running the organization. She's been on the board many times. As you can see, a lot of this work is more on the traditional side. I guess that's it.

Annie Herron: I've been involved in four galleries sometimes by myself and sometimes with a partner. And I've always shown a large percentage of women artists. I started in the early 80s so I think that some of the work that Donna and her gang did in the 70s made me feel that it was okay to do that and I didn't do that for political reasons, I was just attracted to that kind of work. And I think because of what happened before I came along, that's a lot of the reason it felt like it was okay. I felt like it was okay for me to do that. Also, you are going to see that a lot of the work is pretty feminine, however you want to define that, I gather that the artists thought that it was okay for them to do that, partly because of a lot of stuff that happened in the 70s. This is Janet McKiernan and I showed her work in the early 80s--'84, '85, '86, around there. And she does this kind of surrealism. It's oil on canvas. They're really shiny. And when people used to see this work--I mean I can't imaging anyone saying this nowadays. "Yes, she's really, really good but they're so feminine!" There's another one. "I know, that's the best thing about them." In the next gallery, here's another artist called Lauren Solde, who later showed at 303 Gallery. You may have seen her. But this was her first solo show here at Test-Site. She used to pour things on the floor like flour and water and dye. It was like all the stuff you get from your kitchen. And she used to make mobile pieces as well. She would pour onto gauze so these installations weren't really salable. This is something that I don't know. Okay, this is another artist I showed at Test-Site. This is a woman named Mary Trainor and you can see it is a mixed media kind of thing. Now we might put in a couple of pieces by male artists because I think that a lot of the male artists that I've shown are actually pretty feminine, in what they do. This is an artist named Vince Guardulo, who at time was making pieces out of shoes and that's auto body filler. It looks like marble. Here's another piece. They are almost dainty and beautiful. And this is Ross Payne who showed at Test-Site. He showed at Ronald Feldman and now he shows at James Cohen. This a detail. I thought it was the whole piece but actually the whole piece is cast in whatever that stuff is called--resin. And this is an artist named Sherry Mendelsohn that I showed in the mid-90s, getting up to the mid-90s now and she was a sculptor who used to make jewelry for a living and then the jewelry influenced her sculpture and she made big installations. This is a detail shot of one. This is Jane Dixon and these are painting that she did on carpet that were at Black + Herron. This is another one of folded arms. This is a piece by Alana Herzog who showed at Black + Herron in the mid-90s also. I like it because if is really dainty and looks almost like a doily but it also looks kind of scary, like a body bag. It's black velvet covered with white fabric. This is another piece of Alana Herzog's. It's an installation shot of a piece that she did at an exhibition in somebody's home. This is Ray O'Donovan who also showed at Black + Herron in the mid-90s and she used to take furniture parts and make this out of plaster. This is a painting by Nancy Diamond which is oil on canvas but it is actually different kinds of lunch meat, like a lunch meat quilt. This is an artist I've started showing more recently in Williamsburg at Eyewash called Jean Tremel. And it is fabric stretched over canvas and various things like powder puffs and sequins and fabric swatches and things like that (are added). This is another piece made out of Brillo pads and those little garbage bag ties and those flowers are made from, I don't know, but you get the idea. She uses all kinds of weird stuff. And this is an artist that also showed at Eyewash. I guess she's going to show in January at Leslie Tockanow in Chelsea but this was from her first solo show. Recently I started thinking that she reminds me of Amy Cutler a little bit but I think her work's a little feminine too. It's interior and personal, kind of surreal. This an artist named Carol Warner that I have also shown at Eyewash and she takes pictures from magazines and weaves them together to make her paintings that are two-dimensional pieces that hang on the wall in frames.

Panel Discussion

Donna Marxer: Dena will be our first speaker.

Dena Muller: I'd like to start with a few remarks about A. I. R. There's a few members of Soho20 in the audience and I don't see any of the A. I. R. members here but I'll make a few brief remarks about the organization and it's structure. I am sure many of you are familiar with it. A. I. R. was founded in 1972 by 20 women artists who wanted to create an alternative venue to the art market. Their intention was a not-for-profit space run by women and that it was intentionally to relieve some of the commercial pressure placed on women artists by the time. Reading the early documenting papers, they were feeling a pressure to mimic the styles of successful male artists at the time if they would get any attention at all. So the focus was on a not-for-profit 501C3 organization that would let them show whatever they were working on in their studios at the time. The organization has run in the same way for 30 years with 20 New York-based members who are the Board of Directors. We also have a national members' program but they are not of part of the decision-making, policy-making part of the gallery and we also have a project room and a fellowship program where we give opportunities to artists who are not members of the gallery, to show their work in our space. Beyond that, I just wanted to remark on two different issues that I think are sort of the topic of tonight's discussion, the first one being the viability of these women's organizations. We get asked all the time, Donna remarked about it in the opening, about why have a women's gallery or why have them still, and I feel that the answer to that question is just in the fact that they still exist. They are artist-run organizations. And if artists weren't interested and involved they would cease to exist. It's a strange question to ask in a way. I mean, that's exactly my point. As the slides keep coming in, the reason for existence remains. And so I find, having worked at A. I. R. for three years, going on my fourth year as director, that we continue to get as much interest year by year in our programs and everyone participating in the gallery finding the same value in a space where they can show what they are working on regardless of whether it meets market pressures or response to broader non-feminist questions about what's going on in the art market right now. Otherwise I'd like to comment on the question of the status of women in the arts today. We are talking about that as well. How far have women come in 30 years, since these organizations were first founded or 100 years since these organizations were first founded. And I feel like there's two main areas where there is still a strong need for feminist analysis and the first one is one that Donna already mentioned and the fact that there are far fewer women artists making money as professional artists. You start to hear the arguments that there are more opportunities for women to show their work and if you look at Art In America, if you look at Art News, the reviews are starting to get more and more balanced. Biennials are including a better balance but in terms of women who are really making enough money and making money in the blue chip sort of high-end collectors, I think there is still a lot of inequality there. And then the other issue is one that I think is a little bit more subtle. And a lot more contentious and I hope we can have a good conversation about it. And that's that I really feel that the way the art market has changed lately, and become so much more aligned with the entertainment industry and the fashion industry that there is pressure on women artists today to create work that meets that market. That the work be about sexuality, that the work be about their bodies and that the majority of artists that are really getting attention, and I think some of us brought I articles with quick examples. . . (Donna and Dena flashed covers of the "Bad Girl" issue of Art News). When women artists are talked about they are always talked about in the context of the "Bad Girls" o of the art world or women artists whose work is erotic. Women artists whose work is conceptually about their sexual experience as women or about their physical bodies. And I want to make it clear that I do not condemn those artists for pursuing that vision. I think that one mistake we make as feminists often is that we are getting angry with those artists for getting so much attention, for that being the nature of their work. Obviously they should be allowed the freedom to pursue that creative vision. My concern is more with an art establishment that is predominantly interested in that kind of work. And that there's a much narrower range of topics that women artists are sort of allowed to be exploring to get attention from the art establishment. So, that's it. Those are my two concerns: On the financial question and on the issue of women artists. And I think in many ways it is the same issue that many artists of color find themselves. When the establishment really expects that the art be about their cultural experience--that it be about what they have experienced as minorities in American culture. That there's a kind of narrow expectation for them.

Melissa Wolf: Hi, I'm Melissa Wolf. I'm from Women's Studio Center, a non-profit fine artist studio in Long Island City. If there are any Manhattanites in the audience who are scared of coming across the river, this spring if you go to 53rd Street looking for MoMA, you'll find a shuttle to take you across the river. So, while you are there, come visit us. We rent individual studio space to artists. We run life drawing sessions, classes, workshops and offer open studio workspace. Women Artists News and I left copies up front is our monthly publication produced October through May, highlights current history and events for women in the arts. So you can take our newsletter and go around to galleries and see where the women and the artists are. And while you are doing it, I put it by locations and you can take this newsletter to Chelsea and go to one building and see where the women artists are in that building. We also have artists and writers rooms in restaurants in Long Island City and women artists come together and share their arts and professional tips and techniques. We have a very strong writer's program which is run by Ann Babson who is a poet and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, among many other awards. We've had three successful readings by some very talented writers and readings and workshops planned for the future. Our membership program began in March and to date we have 80 members. Membership includes eligibility for our active slide registry, discounts on workshops and events, eligibility for Staples Dividend program. Another feature which is our monthly internet newsletter. It focuses on information about exhibitions and writers' opportunities, positions listings, performances, lectures, happenings and of course the latest on Women's Studio Center. And basic membership is $30. I've also left forms up front. On November 17 and 18 we are having an open house and it will be from 1 to 6pm that weekend and it will feature an exhibition of our members' work and a complete show from our slide registry on Saturday November 17 from 3 - to - 5 and a literary reading on Sunday November 8 from 3 to 5. Lastly you will see that our life drawing session is $15 and the board did some research and figured out that was the highest price in New York City so we brought it down to $9.50 and if you are a member, it is $7. As far as the need for women's organizations, I think the growth of our memberships since March will show you that there is a great need out there. When we conduct our forums, I keep hearing what a needed things it is. I think the fact that we started in 1998 and we've gotten so far, so fast, shows that there is still a need for it. I d the newsletter monthly and I go through many pubications and I see a definite imbalance in the art world.

Donna Marxer: Thank you Melissa.

Liz Cenedella: Thank you. I'm Liz Cenedella and I'm the president of the Pen & Brush which is 110 years old and was started by two women writers actually who decided they wanted to get together with other women artists, painters and other writers because they weren't allowed in the Salmagundi, which was all men at the time. So they began this small organizations and we've had a very long history with a lot of famous members--Pearl Buck, Eleanor Roosevelt, and so-forth. And in 1923 we bought the building at 16 East 10th Street where we have galleries and dining room and garden and we have tenants upstairs and we have 270 members and as I said before, we have a music section, a sculpture section, a crafts section, a writing section which includes poetry , prose and playwriting and the brush section which is the largest encompasses all the visual arts--oil, pastel and so-forth. We have 270 members. It is a closed membership. You have to get in by sponsorship and jury but the question since I've been president which has come up a couple of times is whether to include men because of course we have terrible financial problems trying to run the organization and be a landlord and comply with all the 501C3 regulations and we do have a tax-exempt status so we are kind of reorganization everything. We are trying to expand the membership. We have lectures. We have concerts, we have demonstrations and we are going to be starting a workshop program of drawing and pastel and things like that. So, at this point, my experience as a craftsperson coming into an organization like this which since 1965 was a women's social club; it was not an educational institution as far as they knew, even though they performed educational activities by having panel discussions and now we realize that our mission is such that we have to really expand and develop our membership and educate our own membership to go out and educate the public at large and to inspire young women especially and any other women. Anyone who wants to join is welcome to share ideas and to promote women in the arts. We are a little on the traditional side and I'd like to change that a lot. But as a craftsperson, I've been out in the world and the craft section in this organization is a little bit less than, I have to say, than the fine art part of it. And that bothers me somewhat because crafts are not, at least in this part of the organization, considered not quite as important as fine art. When I show my work at crafts exhibitions, the American Crafts Council and all over the East Coast, the tendency of those artists is to be more artistic, which is great, and so I feel part of that. I'm a woman who happened to be working in fiber and fabric and that, I don't know how that happened but people say to me, am I from Vermont, because I make quilts. I say, "No, actually, I live on Canal Street." "Oh, really, oh?" Anyway, I don't know what else I can say I general, I wish that our organization was a little less traditional. But, the way the set-up is, the new members are juried in by members that are already there so photography, we want to start a photography section, but that has to be voted on by the entire membership, so there are people in the organization who don't think photography is a fine art, so, this is what I am dealing with. But, I am hoping to move ahead. This is 2001 and it is a wonderful organization and we are not going to take men in. It is very important to have a women's organization. And have the camaraderie, the sharing of ideas and so forth. So, anyway, that's what I have to say.

Annie Herron: At Eyewash in Williamsburg we show emerging artists and again, I show men and women but there's always been a high percentage of women in all the galleries I have been involved with. But there is something that I have always noticed that jibes with what Dena was saying. I've never been able to help noticing that male artists always get more famous. From every gallery, if you pick out who was the most famous, it is always a guy. Whose prices were always the highest, it was always a guy. I guess there is still a need for those organizations that focus exclusively on women and obviously there is still a need for them, even though it is opening up and changing a lot, it's still not equal. I don't really have anything else to say.

Donna Marxer: That's okay. You'll have further chances.

Suzanne de Vegh: I'm Suzanne de Vegh, director of Soho20 Gallery and I'd like to start by thanking you for inviting me to join this panel. November 1 will mark my first anniversary with the gallery. And I have to admit that at times, taking up the leadership of a gallery that has existed almost as long as I have, just a year less, is sometimes daunting because I am in awe and inspired by many of the artists in our gallery. I want to mention that tonight, during the slide review, not all of our members were shown and that was because there was a limit of 20 slides and we have more than 20 members. In terms of the structure of the gallery, it is very similar to Dena at .A. I. R. We are an artist-run space. In order to become a member of Soho20, there is a slide review and then artists are asked to bring in original works, if there is an interest and if you are voted in by 2/3 of the members then there's a structure of an initiation fee and monthly dues. I think today's panel is about the relevance of an all-woman's gallery in 2001 and I think that we, just speaking about my generation, I think we've kind of dropped the ball. I don't think that there's the same kind of urgency that there was in the 70s because the wonderful women of Soho20 and A. I. R. have paved the way for us. And though things are not equal, they are a lot easier. Women are represented in galleries and I still think that by having places like Soho20, we are creating environments and an atmosphere where women can have that sense of community. There is something unique about a single-sex atmosphere and it is confidence-building and the kind of peer review and peer critique is invaluable. And I want to continue that. I have wonderful news about our gallery. We are moving to a beautiful space in Chelsea and I want to invite everyone to come see us at 411 West 25th Street. We are going to keep the name because that is our identity. Speaking of identity, we are in the midst of bringing in younger members. Right now we have emerging, mid-career and mature artists and we're open to new voices. We have quite a diversity in our organization in terms of media, in terms of aesthetics, in terms of age and background. And I think it's very important to continue this, many voices in the art world. To keep that going.

Donna Marxer: Thank you all. What a range of work we've seen this evening. What a lot of talent women have. Don't we? I don't want people to think that I'm opposed to the younger generation. I don't think anything kills an organization faster than having it filled with nothing but old farts. I did want to read something that Eleanor Munro said which struck me. She has expressed difficulty in writing about the current generation of women artists. She says, "Utopia is not yet here. The Guerrilla Girls still have their note to play. And most pertinently here, I've had to accept the possibility of writing about women of a younger generation without as much mutual interest as I did with their elders. "Success to the point of celebrity has changed the terms of the transaction in some case. In the Old Days, it was understood that men wouldn't risk losing face by recounting their fears and failures. Today, some women with well-earned public personae are on guard as well. Now I hear no more of the dark passionate voices of before. Instead, artists whose work expands my mind, speak of lives in constrained, practiced ways. I hear no more about coherence of 'hand' or of motif or of self held to tenaciously through the years. "Instead, one hears of technical marvels and vague gestures in pursuit of half-realized images. In such a time, a writer hoping to go deeper than surface detail has to tread lightly." Now how does that strike you? Do you think the younger generation is too commercial? I'm hearing now that money is not the issue. Is there such a difference in the generations in the women artists? Do you have any comments on that?

Dena Muller: I did want to speak on the issue of the generation gap that gets talked about a lot. I am in a similar situation to Suzanne. I was born in the year A. I. R. was founded. And that comes up a lot at the gallery. That I've been alive the same 30 years that the gallery's been open. And I actually think the situation is a lot more complex that that. It's more the bobbling of the ball back and forth between the generations because I have seen in many, many situations, founding members of A. I. R. not necessarily claim it when they have the opportunity to. It is a concern of mine that many people who have gone on to be more successful in their careers don't always list A. I. R. as the place where they started. When given an opportunity, they'll refer generally to the gallery but not name it. And I think that is one of these ways that the galleries get lost in history, is that the older generation moving on wants to claim a credibility that is part of the art establishment and sort of deny these organizations. And vice versa, there is the issue of younger women constantly saying "I'm not a feminist." but . . . they then go on to say 27 feminist things. And that complication of just looking at the issue from two different sides. So I do think it is a big problem for women's organizations to try to include younger artists and include a younger generations of feminists. We have to address the way the issues have changed. And that's sort of what I was trying to say. It's a much more subtle analysis that reminists have to make now. The sort of sheer numbers game of the late 60s and early 70s which constantly talks about how many people are given opportunities, doesn't hold as much weight with younger feminists or with younger artists because they are seeing their friends and colleagues get a lot of opportunities. I think the analysis needs to get a bit more nuanced on both sides about what really are the issues for feminists in the art world.

Donna Marxer: Anybody else have anything to comment on?

Suzanne de Vegh: I don't know if anybody else agrees but do you think it's true that in the 50s women thought that to be successful that their work had to be more masculine?

Annie Herron: I mean definitely. Don't you think so? I think that started changing in the 70s a lot but I think that's an interesting point. Even though people are lagging behind in their appreciation, I think that women are starting to feel more that they don't have t do that. That it is okay to be really feminine.

Donna Marxer: In the 70s I remember I started to paint in pastels for the first time because it was all right. The women, other women told me it was all right.

Liz Cenedella: It's more interesting along the lines of craft, than fine art I think. Craft comes from women as well.

Donna Marxer: Absolutely. Faith Ringgold had a lot to do with that, opening up the quilt to other possibilities as a narrative art.

Liz Cenedella: It isn't as though women weren't doing it before, like Annie Albers. But she never got so much attention for that.

Suzanne de Vegh: I just wanted to add a quick something. Speaking about my gallery (Soho20) and also the peers, friends, artists that I know who are women, I'm really happy to say there is no one kind of women's work. There's such a diversity of voices, and I'm thrilled about that. And I think it has a lot to do with what women in the 70s did. They opened it up. They paved avenues for us and so I could never make a blanket or general statement about work that women are producing. Nor could I about the contemporary art scene in general. It's revolutionized since those days.

Dena Muller: I just wanted to speak a little more as to the need for women's arts organizations. I went to the panel last year with three women artists: One was of an older age. There was a middle-aged and younger and I asked a question which was "What part of the art world do you think has had the most impact on women artists." And the answer was, "The auction houses." Because the artist asked a male artist, "When do you know you are successful?" And he said when you resale at auction for $500,000. And sometimes I watch contemporary art sales and the highest I've seen is Cindy Sherman going for $200,000. There have probably been more but I haven't watched close enough.

Donna Marxer: I think the late Georgia O'Keefe went for the most for modern artists.

Suzanne de Vegh: There are all kinds of criteria for success and dollars is one but by my lights, certainly not the most important. Yes, it is a standard of course, an empirical standard of what things go for at auction, but in terms of reviews, in terms of museum representation and in terms of art history textbooks, those are my markers, not the auction houses. Unfortunately, there has been a pretty dramatic shift toward the business end of art and maybe that's another reason why artist-run spaces are so important because you don't have to worry about those market pressures and also, there aren't the same issues of censorship. And I think that's a very relevant thing right now. Many artists who are represented by commercial galleries self-censor, because of some of the standards that shockingly still exist in terms of nudity, that. that still goes on.

Donna Marxer: That brings me to the next thing. That's the question of the muse. Traditionally the woman has always been muse of male artists. And that seems to be changing. I went to a slide show last week of a well-known collector who showed a lot of work that had a good many sexual references and one slide that really struck me and really made me mad was a neo-realist male artist . . . Oh, he showed 22 artists. Four of them were women, and three of those four were photographers. And he showed this neo-realist who paints these three good friends of his all the time. These three women. And they are wearing either underwear or clothing without underwear and fondling one another. And I thought, Gee, I hope he's paying them well, because they really look like they are being exploited. He photographs them and then he copies the photograph. Anyhow, the collector said, "He paid two of the women $20 each for the sitting and he took the third one to lunch." I thought, I'll bet it was MacDonalds. And it reminded me of when Viva made a film for Andy Warhol which was called "Fuck." They renamed it for the marquees, "Blue Movie." Maybe because it was a gentler time. And in the movie she did just that and after really, really giving him a hard time, he gave her $200. In Viva's biography she said, "Well, I always was a cheap date." So it's the same old. But it occurred to me perhaps today, women are their own muses. They are getting up there themselves. They don't need a male to interpret them. They are doing it themselves. So I remember that Carolee Schneeman was considered a really bad woman because she took off her clothes and she pulled poetry out of her vagina and then read it. And then today, Tracy Emmin has money in her vagina. Does that mean that the older generation had more class? I just want to know what you think about this use of the body? I know that Dena has already said that she doesn't think badly of them but I think maybe I'm a little old fashioned here.

Suzanne de Vegh: I certainly don't think badly of them. I certainly don't think that women that use their own bodies or use the female figure as subject, as content of their work, how could I feel bad about that. It's about identity. There's so many different themes that one can explore as the body, as a site, as a reference, subject matter, as content. I would never use the word "bad." I don't even know if I understand what you are talking about.

Donna Marxer: Well, the are called "The Bad Girls."

Liz Cenedella: Maybe it's because it confrontational.

Donna Marxer: I meant to say, they're the ones that are making the bucks. This is where the money is.

Liz Cenedella: Right.

Dena Muller: This is what I was trying to say before. That I feel really strongly that we need to be careful about condemning those artists for pursuing that vision or using that process. I think the condemnation is really toward the art establishment for being overly interested in it. For giving only attention to that kind of work and forgetting the full range of what women artists are doing. But that's the market, that's not the artist. So the frustration should be focused at the market.

Donna Marxer: Does anybody else have anything to add on that?

Suzanne de Vegh: I think it comes back to the male gaze and the male gaze still dominates. But if women elect to use their own bodies or even as you mentioned this artist who used several women he photographed them and then painted them. Maybe they were having fun. I don't know that there was any exploitation there. I mean I think the arena is a lot bigger now in terms of the way we define art. So, I don't know. I am for a more open-ended view.

Annie Herron: I agree with whoever said it was the market that does it because there is all kinds of incredible work being done by women but there does seem to be a preponderance of that kind of work that becomes the biggest. I mean, not Sherrie Levine, well, Cindy Sherman. A lot of it does tend to become more successful, however you want to measure that. More expensive. They get into museums more, they get reviewed more, all that sort of thing. I don't think that's a good thing necessarily but it has to do with consciousness.

Donna Marxer: Why don't we get some questions from the audience?

Audience: Just a practical question for Annie Herron. Eyewash in Williamsburg. It is Brooklyn obviously. Are you only representing Brooklyn artists?

Annie Herron: No. Emerging artists. There are a lot of emerging artists in Brooklyn, so a lot of them tend to be from the neighborhood.

Audience: So you are concentrating on young, emerging artists.

Annie Herron: Yes.

Audience: (Cynthia Mailman)--Good. I wasn't sure which of the many subjects I wanted to deal with but since you've said that, I think I'd really like to say something about it. I am so damn sick of emerging artists. (Laughter). But, I mean, I was told that when I hit 50, hey, then I would be serious. Then they would know. Then I would make it. And now, everywhere I go, it's emerging artists. It's emerging artists. It's emerging artists.

Annie Herron: There are a variety of ages.

Audience (Cynthia Mailman): I don't think so. When I see emerging artists it means you are 20 years old and you are out there doing something, you are trying to do something that nobody else has seen before, which personally, I think is killing art. I don't really mean this, I'm sorry, as a direct, I don't mean this as a confrontation between us. It happens to be an issue that when I pick up fyi, or when I look at grants or when I look at invitations for things and when I look at galleries, I just want to know, what about us old broads who have been out here all these years, still doing great art. (Applause.)

Donna Marxer: Cynthia, when I was 25 you had to be 50. When I got to be 50 you had to be 25.

Audience: I'm Phyllis Rosser, president of Ceres Gallery, a feminist artist-run gallery. I wanted to ask Dena and Suzanne, how they deal with the critics' prejudice against feminist galleries, basically, that's what we are.

Suzanne de Vegh: Actually, I'm not so aware of a feminist bias as I am aware of the term "cooperative." And so, I shy away from the term cooperative and use "alternative artist-run space." And, how do I deal with that? I just keep plugging away, calling people personally and writing them, revising my mailing list and just keep asking people to come and creating opportunities for people to come and see our work.

Dena Muller: I would exactly reiterate what Suzanne has said. It's the same problem. There is a little bit of a stigma that we already talked about about a women's-only space and why is that valuable, but really the issue, and I'll never be able to quite understand it, I'm not an artist myself, and I'm a relative newcomer to the art world, why the art establishment has such a disdain for artists choosing work. And why the question of quality is raised like artists wouldn't be able to tell quality looking at each other's work. I'm not trained as an artist. I trust the 20 members of A. I. R. to make that decision, more than I trust myself at this point. I'm learning, I'm watching and it's amazing to me how often the market gets to dictate this idea of quality. And it's different things that are driving the market. It's not necessarily an attention to materials or studio processes or really understanding what the work is about. It's about viability in the market and so, it's a complicated thing, and for some reason, there's so much more credibility given to the market deciding quality that artists themselves, as a peer group, self-selecting.

Suzanne de Vegh: Just a quick thing to add to that. There is the suggestion of the taint of vanity that artist-run spaces are not necessarily as serious, that these artists are hobbyists or amateurs, or you know, have deep pockets. That's why they belong to a gallery and I want to avowedly say that that's not what Soho20 is about and that you just have to walk in and see for yourself.

Dena Muller: That is a PR issue too. I have been trying really hard at A. I. R. to put forward all of the opportunities that they have created for artists where there is a financial exchange involved. The gallery has been really working hard lately at creating fellowship so that if the membership dues are prohibitive, that it is really an issue of the artist's work as something that the other artists appreciate and want to give it an opportunity to be seen. And our Gallery 2 program is that way too. That it is trying to do as much outreach and meet the original mission of the gallery as a not-for-profit space and try to get away from that idea that everyone is paying to show.

Liz Cenedella: This brings up something regarding our organization. The fact that every person is juried in keeps it very restricted and I would like to see a lot more different kind of art taking place in our gallery but that's not how our by-laws are set up and the people that have been there for years, and some of them have been there a long time, still want to keep everything the way it was and they want to keep it in the social atmosphere. And they really don't understand the purpose of the organization. Our main mission at this point really is to try and completely revolutionize the group. And I just wish that there was a lot more diversity in the kind of work that we have. I'm very disappointed in that. I have proposed several painters whose work is wonderful and they have been turned down by the oil section or the pastel section and they've applied twice and sometimes three times. I'm not going to put my friends through this so, it's disappointing because the purpose of this organization is to educate, to teach, t encourage other women to do their work and if you don't let anybody in there. Now, we do have the capability of allowing non-members to exhibit in any of our shows, just by bringing their work in and again, it's juried, sometimes by invitation. But this is the way we are trying to broaden our membership and trying to get a little more diversity.

Donna Marxer: Do we have one more question?

Audience: (Libby Seaberg)--This is not a question but I do have a few comments. Anyhow, you did mention in the 50s women artists did seem to be more imitative or seem to want to imitate men artists and I really don't see any evidence of that. I don't know who you are referring to so I would like a greater clarification of that. Also, I don't mean to defend The New York Times but Gail Collins just was appointed to the editorial pages.

Donna Marxer: Yes, but she's not hiring women. . . that's what I mean about . . .

Liz Cenedella: But she was on the Op Ed, she was one of the two political writers in the last year on the Times. And I think the editorial page writer or editor is a very significant person at the newspaper. And also, this has been partly addressed by the comments about A. I. R> and Soho20. Their requirements for the members to pay in order to be part of it I don't think you can really say that women are avoiding the commercial aspect of art because they do have to have a certain amount of money in order to continue their membership. And for women who are professional artists who want to earn a living at their art they have to be able to sell their work and not only support the gallery by doing it.

Donna Marxer: Thank you. Does anybody have anything to add?

Suzanne de Vegh: We have to have membership dues in order to keep the gallery going. I mean we have to operate with a budget. Of course that's not our sole source of income but how can you keep a gallery running, utilities, overhead, etc. That's the nature of why we have membership dues.

Donna Marxer: That's a reality. Most artists have to pay something toward their careers. We should each be our own foundation!

Dena Muller: I think there is a funding issue and it's part of the broader issues we have been talking about. A. I. R. was founded on a NYSCA grant, and I was told specifically by a NYSCA representative that artist-run spaces are not eligible because of their structure for NYSCA grants any longer and it's one of those frustrations because the Board of Directors are the artists who are receiving the benefits of the grant, we suddenly have this conflict of interest and even though we are a 501C3 organization, are not eligible for grants any longer and so, the dues is a complicated issue but I think all the organizations are really focused on trying to keep the dues as low as possible and to create opportunities to invite artists to be part of the gallery without there being a financial relationship. And I think the issue about commercialization is saying that because there isn't a direct relationship between the art market and the gallery's budget that the artist can show what they are working on in their studios regardless of whether it's salable or not. That's where the freedom from commercial pressure comes in.

Donna Marxer: We are about ready to wind this up.

Annie Herron: I think that a lot of the work that is made by women you know at a glance that it is made by a woman. It's not always easy to tell and I'm not saying that it should be but very frequently, you know whether it was done by a man or a woman. But in the 50s, I can't look at a Lee Krasner and know, if I didn't know who it was, if it was done by a man or a woman. I believe that they exist but the fact that we don't know who they are . . . is part of the point. The ones that got more successful are the ones that did more masculine work. With the exception of people like Florine Stettheimer, obviously her work was done by a woman. Ii don't know anybody who would think it was done by a man.

Melissa Wolf: I haven't said much because I'm coming from a completely different point of view. My goal for Women's Studio Center with the board, is to see equality in the art world over all--in auction houses, in other venues. While I think artist-run spaces are amazing and fantastic, I would like to see more going on in the whole art world and our eventual goal is to have a resource center, which not just focuses on books and history, but becomes a place where galleries and curators can come and get information about women artists.

Dena Muller: I want to speak on the issue of women very quickly which I mentioned that too in my opening remarks. The first sentence of A. I. R.'s first announcement in September of 1972 that those founding artists felt pressure to create work that mimicked what successful male artists were doing. And I wouldn't have necessarily thought about that had I not read it in their incorporation papers and in the earliest conversations they were having about why A. I. R. was important.

Donna Marxer: Okay, I think we have come to the end of our revels. Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." And I think we are seeing this certainly in our country and we are seeing it in the world of art, we are seeing it with women in art. I just think we have to keep at it. We have to keep it out there. I'm reminded of one of my favorite people and a very successful woman artist, Dorothy Gillespie, who said, "The woman artist is banging on the door of the art world and they won't let her in. And years go by and she's still banging on the door and they won't let her in. Decades later she's still banging on the door and they say, 'That Old Broad's still out there? Oh hell, let her in.'" So, Let us in! I want to thank our panelists. You've been wonderful and I'm sure people are going to want to come up and talk to you.

ATOA Transcription Archive
October 26, 2001

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